Robert Love (left ) and Cameron Cuthbert (right)
Strathblane Station 1926 which was a single platform type
On the 1st July 1867, the people of the Parish cheered from a variety of vantage points as the first passenger train made its way through the parish from Killearn to Glasgow. The first train had left Killearn at 8.25 in the morning, and the first going from Glasgow back to Killearn was at 10.10 am. The new line had stations at Lennoxtown (Blane Valley), Campsie Glen, Strathblane, Blanefield and Killearn.
The Saturday Stirling Observer of the 4th July 1867 gave the following description of the opening of the line.
The line is an extension of Campsie Railway, the junction being formed about 200 yards on this side of Lennoxtown Station. The distance from Lennoxtown to Sauchie or Killearn Station is 8¼ miles and to Glasgow 11½ miles, so that the length of the whole line from Glasgow is about 19¾ miles. After leaving Lennoxtown the line is a single one worked by a baton. About 150 yards beyond the junction at Lennoxtown is a station for the accommodation of those of that village who wish to travel on the new line and about a mile and a half farther on is the Campsie Glen Station. Three or four miles beyond is the Strathblane Station, situated about a couple of hundred yards to the south of the Parish Church, and about a quarter of a mile from the Strathblane Calico Print Works, which have a siding station of their own. A journey of ten minutes brings the traveller to the extremity of the line at Sauchie. Though the station here bears the name Killearn Station, it is fully a mile and a half from the village of that name.
The Blane Valley Line was the result of two acts of Parliament - the Blane Valley Railway Act 1861 and the Blane Valley Exclusion Act l865. These had made provision for the necessary negotiations regarding the creation and issue of new ordinary shares or new preferential Shares, the purchase of land, engineering work, salaries etc. The total cost of the line was £47,195 8s 2d.
Provided the amount of traffic merited it, it was agreed that the line would be extended a further three and a half miles to join the Forth and Clyde Railway at Gartness, which had been opened on the 26th May 1856. This did not happen until the 1st October 1882 when the final phase of the Strathendrick and Aberfoyle Railway was opened. The 34 miles of the Aberfoyle and Blane Valley Railway ran on the rails of no less than four Railway Companies at one stage and no doubt this created its own problems!
The construction of the line, which had taken three years and four months, had to take into account the geography of the area and as a result the line meandered in places. However, it was seen as a safe and substantial one, with only one heavy cutting on the whole eight and a quarter miles. The engineers were Messrs. Forman and McCall, Glasgow, and , the contractor ,Mr. James Barr .The line was to be worked by the North British Company, who had put up a large part of capital, and it consequently became part of that large companyThe line had opened for mineral and goods traffic on the 5th November 1866 but due to the line not being "fish jointed", the Government Inspector would not grant a certificate for passenger traffic until this was done.
Strathblane Station House and weigh bridge 1920’s – The house and the old station yard are now in private ownership. It also had a single goods siding with loading bank and crane
Even at the outset it was not expected that there would be a large passenger traffic on the new line as, with the exception of the Blanefield Print Works, the area was an agricultural one. The main traffic was expected to be in agricultural produce, in particular, milk. At that time much of the traffic in milk was sent by the Forth and Clyde Railway to Balloch then to Glasgow. It was anticipated that the shorter and cheaper route of the Blane Valley to Glasgow would convey most of the milk traffic. To meet the anticipated demand, it was decided that there would be three through trains to Killearn, and four to Strathblane and Campsie Glen.
As well as conveying agricultural produce, the new line was viewed as a tourist line to open up the natural beauty of the area. The original plan had been to continue the Blane Valley Line to Aberfoyle and from there to Inversnaid on Loch Lomond. However, the Duke of Montrose objected to this and the line was terminated at Aberfoyle.
One complaint was the price of the fares as well as the frequency of service. Despite changes, the railway could not compete with the likes of the Caledonian Auto Services who ran a motor charabanc trip from George Square to the Blane Valley . A service of motor omnibuses was now running between Glasgow and Balfron via Milngavie and the fares were cheaper than the train.
On the 29th September 1934 the Forth & Clyde Junction Railway closed to passengers. In many ways, this could be seen as the beginning of the end for the Blane Valley Line as with the fall in the number of passengers, trains had begun to terminate at Blanefield and the few passengers travelling further were conveyed in a Sentinel Steamcar to Aberfoyle. During the Second World War, the line again became busy but with freight as it was reported that ammunition was stored in the Aberfoyle area and had to be transported out by train. Trains with two engines pulling approximately 22 wagons were seen travelling through the parish during the war years.Perhaps this was just a passing reprieve for the line as, on the 1st October 1951 it was announced that the Aberfoyle-Kirkintilloch section would be closed to passengers, the stations affected being; Milton of Campsie, Lennoxtown, Campsie Glen, Strathblane, Blanefield, Dumgoyne, Killearn, Balfron, Buchlyvie and Aberfoyle. The bus service was there to ensure that those who had previously used the train had an alternative. It was agreed that freight train traffic in full wagon loads would continue to be dealt with at the stations on the branch line, and there would be no change in the existing arrangements for dealing with freight train traffic in less than truck loads.
However, freight was only conveyed for the next eight years and on the 5th October, 1959 the Aberfoyle section of the line closed to freight. At the same time the Forth & Clyde Junction Railway also closed to freight thus effectively closing the railway link to the parish and beyond. By 1966 the line from Lennoxtown to Lenzie Junction had been closed and work had started on removing the track as well as demolishing the bridges.
In total the passenger line to the parish had lasted for 84 years and the freight line 93 years. Its arrival had heralded contact with the Industrial Central Belt of Scotland and provided an opportunity for the Printworks and others to develop trade as well as creating links with Glasgow and beyond. However, in the fullness of time, high fares, poor time tabling coupled with the development of cheaper bus services in the 1920's, as well as being on a meandering Branch Line all contributed to sounding the death knell for the line.
Opened 26th May 1856, closed to passengers 29th September 1934, freight 3rd October 1959©Alison Dryden, Strathblane Heritage Society 2004